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Posted Wed Sep 22 2010: from EPOCA:
Shellfish feel the burn: damage linked to atmospheric CO2
Last week, the National Academy of Sciences released a report on research of what has been called "the other carbon problem"--ocean acidification.... The NAS report says that we're way behind in studying this problem, which wasn't even fully recognized until recently. Just how far behind we are is made clear by a paper that will be released this week by PNAS, which reveals that two species of commercially harvested shellfish are likely to already be suffering increased mortality due to ocean acidification.... The interesting twist in the new work is that the authors also run the experiment under preindustrial CO2 levels of about 250ppm (actual levels were closer to 280ppm). For both species of shellfish, the mortality was much lower and development proceded more quickly. For the quahog, viability doubled (from 20 percent to 40 percent), while for the bay scallop, viability went from 43 percent to 74 percent. The animals made major developmental milestones more quickly--metamorphosis at day 14 occurred in half the animals at preindustrial CO2 levels, but that dropped to less than seven percent at modern levels. The authors helpfully point out that they've eliminated predation in their lab conditions. If the animals were subject to being eaten, the weaker shells that form at higher CO2 levels would almost certainly increase the mortality.... According to the paper, it's actually been over 24 million years since levels are likely to have been this high, and many shellfish have diversified more recently than that; any changes in CO2 in the intervening time have also been far more gradual than the current pace.
[Read more stories about: ocean acidification, carbon emissions, carbon sinks, coal issues]

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